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The holiday menace

Christmas, gay news, Washington Blade

While most Washingtonians are preparing for Christmas, many real estate agents are still busy with work. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Most agents will tell you that the weeks between Thanksgiving and mid-January are some of the slowest in the real estate business, as people begin to focus less on housing and more on family and spiritual pursuits during the holiday season.

While that may be true in general, the transient nature of the D.C. metropolitan area and its continued low inventory of homes keep things humming along here more than in many parts of the country.

With interest rates creeping upward and new mortgage lending rules that could make qualifying for a loan more difficult in 2014, some buyers have stepped up their timetable.

And while many real estate agents are indeed baking cookies, scheduling family visits, planning trips to warmer climates or just sitting back and sipping eggnog, others are still hard at work.

It is with that thought that I wanted to share my recent experience with you.

’Twas the week before Christmas and here in D.C., I hadn’t found time yet to put up a tree or finish my shopping, or send out a greeting to clients by email, by text, or by tweeting. Instead of enjoying a long winter’s snooze, I had agents, attorneys and lenders to schmooze.

I sat at my desk as I tried to remember just when I last had such a busy December. I scheduled inspections and settlement dates while my Schnauzers slept soundly all snug in their crates. Their little legs moved as in dreams they gave chase to critters that ran at a frenetic pace.

I proofread a contract and then just for sport, reviewed the results of a termite report. I made a few phone calls and couldn’t resist checking off several things from my long “to do” list.

It seemed for a moment I might get a break for my beverage of choice and a Porterhouse steak when out on the street there arose such a clatter I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash with my doggies in tow like a hundred-yard dash. I parted the draperies and peered through the glass expecting to see what had caused the loud crash.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear but a red-suited man with six-pack of beer and a UPS driver all dressed up in brown whose eyebrows were narrowing into a frown. His truck, it was dented, his uniform, tattered, his packages strewn on the ground were all shattered.

The red-suited man was surveying the scene surrounded by reindeer and elves dressed in green. He bowed to the driver and said with chagrin, “What an awkward position we find ourselves in.”

Well, the driver, in no mood to be so polite, shook his fist and replied with his eyes shining bright, “Don’t try to pretend this is my fault! Enough! Now you tell me, just who’s going to pay for this stuff?”

But the red-suited gentleman seemed not to hear as he belched and he hiccupped and opened a beer. He raised up the can and he took a long draught while I watched from the window and had a good laugh.

Then much to my horror, he looked up and froze as the UPS guy punched him square in the nose. The force of the blow made him sit with a plop and he stayed on the ground ’til the dizziness stopped.

Then slowly he rose from his sitting position, assessing with care his most current condition.  “Hey, Rudolph,” he called, “I am still quite alive, but I think I should sleep in the back while you drive.”

From the rear of his transport he pulled out a sack filled with money to pay Mr. UPS back.  Then I heard him exclaim as he boarded the sleigh so he could get sober and be on his way, “This drinking and flying is really a bummer. Next year I’ll deliver my gifts in a Hummer.”

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Valerie M. Blake is with Keller Williams Capital Properties. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


Mixed reaction to Boy Scouts plan on gay members

Zach Walls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

‘This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,’ said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. (Photo courtesy of

A statement issued by the Boy Scouts of America on Monday saying the organization is considering dropping its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders was hailed by LGBT advocates as an important breakthrough in the fight for equality.

But two of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups warned that if the BSA’s board votes next week to drop its ban on gays, as predicted by sources familiar with the Boy Scouts, it would lead to a “mass exodus” of scouts and scout leaders from traditional, religious-oriented families and communities.

In its statement released on Monday, the BSA said the change it was considering would allow the religious, civic and educational organizations that are chartered to operate scouting units throughout the country to make the final decision on whether or not to accept gays.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the statement says.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” says the statement.

“BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families,” it says.

NBC News, which first reported that BSA was considering lifting its gay ban prior to the release of the statement, also reported that the organization was expected to approve the changes at a board of directors meeting within the next week.

Janelle Moritz, a public relations representative for the Boy Scouts of America, told the Blade she could not confirm the NBC report about the timing of a board meeting or what the board would decide. She said BSA would not comment on the matter beyond what it said in its statement, which doesn’t say when the group will decide on the issue.

Other news media outlets, however, reported that BSA sources confirmed that the board meeting would take place next week, mostly likely at the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations, and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect,” he said.

“This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts’ expected policy change follows the growing support for LGBT equality from the American people.

“The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,” Griffin said in a statement. “Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it’s time the Boy Scouts echo those values.”

A far different response emerged from leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two national conservative groups that oppose LGBT rights.

“The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,” said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts is to ‘instill values in young people’ and ‘prepare them to make ethical choices,’ and the Scouts’ oath includes a pledge ‘to do my duty to God’ and keep himself ‘morally straight,” he said. “It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.”

The American Family Associated posted on its website a column by anti-gay advocate Bryan Fischer, who quipped that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach convicted on child molestation charges, would become “the new poster boy” for the Boy Scouts.

“This move, unless the BSA dramatically reverses itself in the immediate future, represents the capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy,” he said. “The Scouts will have made a deliberate decision to put the sexual integrity of every young man in their care at risk.”

Within a day of the BSA’s announcement that it was considering changing its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders, the FRC and the American Family Association posted appeals on their websites urging members and supporters to call the BSA to urge the group to leave its ban on gays in place.

“As the BSA board meets next week, it is crucial that they hear from those who stand with them and their current policy regarding homosexuality,” FRC said.

Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents,” the statement says. “Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.

“Of these, 64.9 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations, 22.7 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations, and 7.9 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations,” it says.

It says the chartered organizations are responsible for providing meeting facilities, providing “quality leadership for the scouting unit,” and appointing a representative to coordinate unit operations

A list of BSA chartered organizations posted on its website shows a wide range of religious and civic groups that are likely to differ on whether or not to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

Among them are the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and “Baptist Churches,” which traditionally have condemned homosexuality. Others, however, include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Lutheran churches, which have had more accepting policies toward LGBT people.

Civic groups listed on the BSA website as chartered organizations include local Chambers of Commerce, Lions and Rotary clubs, American Legion organizations, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YMCA groups, “non-profit agencies,” and “home owners” groups.

The BSA’s statement saying it is considering removing its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders comes seven months after the BSA announced it had conducted a two-year review of the ban and decided to leave it in place.

Monday’s announcement also comes after several prominent corporations, including United Parcel Service and Intel Corporation, withdrew as BSA financial sponsors, saying the gay ban violated their corporate polices of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Others opposing the Boy Scouts ban on gays have organized online petition drives that have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on the BSA to drop its gay ban.

Among those drawing attention to efforts to end the ban is Eagle Scout Wahls of Iowa, who is straight but has spoken publically about his two lesbian moms.

Sharon Brackett, co-founder and board chair of the statewide transgender advocacy organization Gender Rights Maryland, said she experienced firsthand how at least some Boy Scout troops and the chartered organizations that operate them are LGBT supportive.

Brackett said she served as a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop in Savage, Md., where her sons were members, before she transitioned from male to female. She said after taking a break during her transition period, the troop and a local Methodist church that served as the chartered organization, welcomed her back once she completed her gender transition.

“My experience has been positive,” she said, noting that women have long served as Boy Scout troop leaders and officials in the chartered organization covering her area had no problem with her coming back.

Brackett said she supports the proposed change by the BSA to leave it up to the chartered organizations to decide whether gay scouts or troops can be admitted. At least in Maryland, she said, there are enough local troops and chartered organizations to choose from that would result in gay youth finding one that will be welcoming.

“Having that choice is the best next step for us at this time,” she said.


Profane and profound

Drew Cortese, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Studio Theatre, the Motherfucker With the Hat, gay news, Washington Blade, theater

Drew Cortese, left, and Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey in Studio’s ‘The Motherfucker With the Hat.’ (Photo by Teddy Wolff; courtesy Studio)

‘The Motherfucker With the Hat’
Through March 10
Studio Theatre
1501 14th St. NW

“The Motherfucker with the Hat’s” catchy title is mild when compared to its dialogue. Yes, the characters in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ latest play like their language raw (don’t even try to count the f-bombs — you’d run out of fingers and toes within minutes) and very often hilarious. But there’s nothing stilted about what’s being said onstage. Guirgis faithfully channels the words of their world, allowing these hardcore New Yorkers to tell their stories in their own way and it couldn’t be more authentic.

Now playing at Studio Theatre, “Hat” kicks off with Veronica (Rosal Colón), a 30-ish Nuyorican spitfire talking on the phone with her mom while cleaning her grungy studio apartment and doing the occasional line of cocaine. Veronica advises her mother to drop her new no good man who has a head like fish, saying, “Take a moment. Take a breath. Take a real good look and just ax yourself in all honesty, ‘Do I wanna fuck him or fry him up with a little adobo and paprika?’” Instantly, we know this girl — not terribly eloquent, but makes her point, and her heart is in the right place.

Enter Veronica’s longtime boyfriend Jackie (the excellent Drew Cortese) bearing good news. A newly sober parolee who’s recently finished a two year stint upstate for dealing drugs, Jackie has just landed a job with UPS. But what was supposed to be a celebratory evening of Carvel ice cream cake, lovemaking and movies for the passionate couple goes awry when he spies an unfamiliar hat in the apartment — a dark fedora, plain except for a small fiery red feather on the side. He suspects infidelity. A huge fight ensues, and Jackie, unsure whether to seek wisdom at an A.A. meeting or revenge, storms out.

His support system — such as it is — consists of his best friend and AA sponsor Ralph (Quentin Maré), a charmingly slimy guru-wannabe who runs a successful health drink startup with his also sober but embittered wife Victoria (Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey). And while Ralph talks a lot of self-improvement, in his defense, he never claims to have anything to offer anyone other than sobriety. And then there’s Jackie’s seemingly gay cousin Julio (smartly underplayed Liche Ariza), a fastidious foodie/bodybuilder who’s married to a woman and harbors a secret passion for violence. Typically Jackie goes to him only when he needs something.

A wordy two hours without an intermission, “Hat” could potentially be tedious, but it’s not. Director Serge Seiden, who is gay, keeps things moving at a brisk clip. He also maintains an enviable balance of laughs and pathos. Debra Booth’s set is nicely subtle and serviceable — it works well, but never gets in the way. And the terrific five-person ensemble cast is especially strong. Each of the actors brilliantly embodies the play’s message: people aren’t always what they seem.

Without warning, Guirgis’ agile writing turns sharply from insults and slams to moments of stunning poignancy. When a drunken Jackie shows up at Veronica’s apartment eager to punish her for hurting him, she responds with her own hurt, reminding him of their shared dreams of children, a home in Yonkers, a future — all crushed by bad timing, poor decisions and drugs. Or when cousin Julio’s bouncy walk down memory lane morphs into an explanation of why he remains so very loyal to Jackie, citing a heartfelt memory from his early outcast adolescence when Jackie had his back. Heartbreaking moments.

A native of York City’s Upper West Side, the playwright is known for using the neighborhood’s urban mix in his work; and with “Hat,” an interesting cross section of these foul-mouthed, angry but hopeful, hurting and seriously funny folks are present and accounted for. They’re damaged people, in pain, masking hurt with bravado and humor, looking for love and trying to find their way.

“Hat” is a resonant play and Studio’s deeply affecting, always engaging production is alternately stinging and poignant.


Year in review: Chick-fil-A, Boy Scouts assailed for anti-gay policies

Chick-fil-A, anti-gay donations, gay news, Washington Blade

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation drew supporters and protesters. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Advocates in 2012 criticized a number of national business chains and organizations for their anti-LGBT policies.

Activists organized protests outside Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country after Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, spoke out against same-sex marriage during an interview. A University of Maryland-College Park student launched a petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the campus food court, but some questioned the effectiveness of those efforts.

Vandals targeted Chick-fil-A restaurants in Frederick, Md., and in at least two other locations across the country in the weeks after Cathy’s controversial comments. Local and federal law officials said Floyd Lee Corkins, II, had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack when he allegedly shot Family Research Council security guard Leo Johnson at the anti-gay group’s downtown Washington headquarters in August.

The Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy against openly gay scouts and scout leaders came under increased scrutiny in April after the organization ousted Jennifer Tyrrell as leader of her son’s troop in Ohio. The Boy Scouts of America Executive Board in July reaffirmed the policy, but the organization has lost funding from a number of prominent organizations. These include the Merck and UPS Foundations.